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Tim Coombe

Life can change in a matter of seconds.

At 5 p.m. on July 15, 2016, Tim Coombe and his wife, Charlotte, left their New Hampshire home to attend a funeral several hours away. A distracted driver, who was texting, collided with a car ahead of him, sending his car airborne, hitting Tim head-on.

The fire department immediately arrived, airlifting Tim's wife to treat her possibly collapsed lung and severely broken leg, crushed foot and broken arm. The air bag did deploy but Tim hit his head against the truck so hard that his jaw shattered on impact and he sustained a cranial injury, making him lose all memory of the accident.

 "The way paramedics determined I had Parkinson's disease is through my Parkinson's ID bracelet," Tim said. The ID bracelet came with his Aware in Care hospitalization kit, which Tim doesn't take off. Since Tim's hospitalization was far from planned, Tim didn't have his entire kit with him.

However, because of his bracelet, the Central Maine Medical staff knew he had Parkinson's the minute he arrived. In emergency jaw reconstruction surgery, Tim's bracelet helped surgeons identify him as having Parkinson's. For the next two and a half weeks, he was in a coma in the Intensive Care Unit. During that time, Tim was given his Parkinson's medication, even though he was never able to communicate.

Surgery was only the beginning. Tim woke up two and a half weeks later, not remembering the accident. After a few days, he and his wife were transferred to two different medical centers, despite their requests to stay together. They spent 10 long weeks being rehabilitated and treated for their injuries.

Although Tim and Charlotte had gone through many hardships over those 70 days, Tim had a brief moment of hope that propelled him through his recovery. When Tim was rolled out of the New England Rehab Center for the last time, the entire staff lined up and applauded him to wish him a speedy recovery. "I had become very well-liked there and didn't know it until they did their honor guard imitation.” Tim said. “It meant a lot to me."

Tim and his wife are also humbled by the support they received from their church. Charlotte was sent home before Tim, in a wheelchair due to the limited use of her foot. Her friends from church helped care for her, stayed over and drove her to see Tim. Once Tim came home, the couple was surprised to receive a slew of home-made meals and donations to help them with their medical bills.

Tim wants readers to remember four take-away points from his experience:

  • Always wear your Parkinson's ID bracelet. His bracelet spoke up for him when he physically couldn't, informing the firefighters, paramedics and hospital staff that he has Parkinson's. 
  • Never text and drive. The driver who caused the accident was fined under the relatively new distracted driver laws. He was given a misdemeanor and a fine.
  • No matter how short the car ride, always buckle your seat belt BEFORE you leave. Tim planned to put his on enroute, but never did because the accident happened one mile from his home. 
  • Find a good church home.  

Today, Tim's jaw is still numb, which makes it difficult to eat. Charlotte's foot is still healing. Since the accident, Tim learned that the fireman who helped him and his wife said, "I've never seen an impact as hard as that."

Tim never thought that his Parkinson's would take a back seat, but because the hospital and medical center staff knew about his Parkinson's, he was able to focus on getting better. He is thankful to be alive and go back to sharing his life with his wonderful wife.

The Aware in Care kit can be requested at www.awareincare.org or by calling our free Helpline at 1-800-4PD-INFO (473-4636).

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